Sunday, November 8, 2015

Penang Island Cycling Lanes

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Penang Island Cycling Lanes
October 2015
Penang is leading the Malaysian states in promoting cycling and part of that plan is in the provision of a good cycling infrastructure. In August 2013, the Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, launched an initiative to provide shared green cycling lanes. These are cycling lanes painted in green on existing roads to indicate to other users that it is a shared lane. At that launch, the honourable chief minister also hinted of more to come; and this has partly materialised in the form of the dedicated cycling lanes on the east coast of Penang Island.

I had flown in from Kuala Lumpur to the Penang International Airport and thought to myself, why not cycle from Bayan Lepas to Tanjong Tokong, and along the way have a look at the East Coast cycling lanes. But the cycling lanes only start from Queensbay; nevertheless, I had a good time riding through the rustic kampong roads of Permatang Damar Laut, starting with a ride along the canals of Sungai Bayan Lepas and then along Lebuhraya Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu (LLCE) to get to Queensbay.

That story is in another blog (... read that ride blog), for now let's have a look at the lanes, starting with the map below:

(Please note updates 27-03-2016 to the above map and also see updates at bottom of this blog for the latest on these lanes).
The cycling lanes run along the east coast of the island (constructed as Phase 1 of the Penang Bicycling Route Masterplan), starts from Queensbay and leads all the way down to Penang Road (or vice-versa if one is cycling up from George Town). For the most part, these are a dedicated cycling lanes and not one shared with other traffic. Along the way, there are interesting stops such as a viewpoint of the Penang Bridge, Persiaran Karpal Singh and even a crooked bridge. This is going to be an interesting ride, and I really took my time to enjoy the lanes, the ambience and the views.
(Note: Exit points to draw in users from their residential/working areas are important; below I note these exit points and their destinations)

A version of this blog appeared in the May 2016 issue of the Penang Monthly.

The lane starts near the round-a-bout where Persiaran Bayan Indah joins the LLCE. Here it's three lane; two lanes for cycling and a slightly elevated pedestrian lane.

The lane starts quite abruptly here as there is a hurdle of crossing over a nearby canal where main service cables and water pipes run parallel to a bridge along the LLCE.
(Correction: this is not an abrupt end, this is where Phase 1 has been completed; Phase 2 should continue from here). Hopefully, the continuation of the cycling lane (under Phase 2) will materialize soon as there is a large population to serve at the Bayan Lepas, Batu Maung and Teluk Kumbar neighbourhoods.

(See update 27-03-2016 below for ongoing construction of Phase 2)
(See update 15-10-2018 for the completed spiral bridge linking Phase 1 to Phase 2)

It is a good start, the lanes meander along the seaside on a half kilometre stretch leading towards the Queensbay Mall. The lanes here are paved with tarmac and are in good condition. Seating benches have even been provided for one to relax, enjoy the quietness and the sea view amid a fluttering salty sea breeze.
Too bad for me, at the time a haze from the forest fires of Sumatra had enveloped Peninsular Malaysia; otherwise it would have been a spectacular view of blue skies with puffy clouds over the blue sea.

At the round-a-bout next to Queensbay Mall, a narrow opening allows cyclist to exit. It's narrow and without a proper ramp so as to discourage motor-cyclists from encroaching into the lanes.
EXIT POINT: To Queensbay, Bayan Baru, Bukit Jambul, Relau and the south of the island where the lanes have not reached yet.

 A short stretch near the open car-park opposite the Queensbay Mall was disconnected.

Beyond this, the lane runs behind some walled-up gated housing. There is no direct access for these residents and they need to use the Queensbay Mall exit (see above). These housing are on reclaimed land, on the other side are land for future developments, for the present cows are happily grazing there. The cows are not a nuisance and do not obstruct the lanes, the difficult thing about cycling lanes here are not the cows but rather motor-cyclist who would try to use these lanes as contra-traffic short cuts.
Note: These reclaimed land are undergoing development and the lanes here may be re-routed as development proceeds.

Near the Gold Coast Resort Condominium, the lanes cut through seafood restaurants. Interesting, cyclists can just stop here and have good seafood. They just have to figure where to park their bikes, perhaps the operator can be pro-active and provide bicycle racks.
EXIT POINT TO: Sungai Nibong, Batu Uban, Sungai Dua & Taman Lip Sin.

Just after this are the first of many barriers put up to deter motor-cyclists from encroaching. The lanes here are constructed of concrete with broom-sweep finishing. Ample planting are there to provide natural shading.

Slightly ahead is a small open space called the Taman Berbasikal with some steel sculptures of cyclists.

The lane skirts the Gold Coast Resort Condominium and then goes up a metal ramp...

... that leads up to lanes crossing a bridge. From here, the cycling lanes will run mostly parallel to Persiaran Bayan Indah and the LLCE until it hits Persiaran Karpal Singh.
EXIT POINT TO: Sungai Nibong, Batu Uban & Sungai Dua.

Tree lined and shady, this stretch is a pleasure to cycle on. Along here, near the Pulau Jerejak Jetty, are some food stalls too.

The exit point to another gated housing, D'Residence.

Another deterrent for motor-cyclists, road barriers at the Penang Marine Police Base entrance.
(Update 27-03-2016: New Jersey barriers have been removed.)

EXIT POINT TO: Batu Uban, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Minden Heights & Gelugor.

After this there is a short stretch of shared lanes, don't be surprised to see boats parked at the road sides as the sea is nearby.

The Batu Uban Fishermen's Jetty nearby is a worthwhile place to stop to view the fishing sampans with their reflections onto the sea.

Further along, is a viewpoint of the Penang Bridge. The haze was really bad when I took this photo, the other end of the bridge was not even visible. It will be great to have a park here (think of the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from of Luna Park). After this point, the shared lanes end and dedicated cycling lanes continues.

A bit of interesting riding under the ramps leading up to the Penang Bridge.

After that, the lanes run parallel to the LLCE and are quite wide. In fact there are actually two lanes, one for cyclists and another for pedestrians; at intermittent wider nodes they merge.

Another sculpture called "Coastal Runners" along the LLCE, unveiled in November 2009 to commemorate the Penang Bridge International Marathon.

The pedestrian bridge near the E-Gate Building, on the right of the stairs is a ramp for cyclists to cross over to the other side of the LLCE to access the neighbourhoods on the other side. On the left, the cycling lane continue onwards towards the city, its a bit narrow here so do cycle with care.
EXIT POINT TO: Gelugor, Batu Uban, Bukit Gambier, Green Lane and Air Itam.

Along here are some discontinuous stretches...
(Update 27-03-2016: Most discontinuous stretch have been connected)

Work is being carried out to close these gaps, new cycling bridges are being built.
(Update 27-03-2016: These bridges have been connected)

The cycling/pedestrian lanes at Persiaran Karpal Singh (PKS) are wide and landscaped in a boulevard fashion. But the route getting there seems to have a missing link (see map above); turning in from LLCE into Jalan Perusahaan Jelutong, the lane abruptly ended and cycling on the road is required.
EXIT POINT TO: Jelutong, Perak Road, 

Puzzled by the missing link, I did some exploration and found this bridge at the southernmost end of PKS, in front of the Hean Chooi Temple. It's completed but still not connected as on the other side is land that is still being developed.

(Update 27-03-2016: The missing link and this bridge has been connected!)
A lane runs through the empty land and connects to the bridge. A sign states it as a temporary access, probably it is temporary until this land is developed.

From there the lane runs along and crosses the front of the BSP Waterfront Food Court to lead to PKS. Unfortunately the management of the food court seems to disregard the cycling lanes there and have constructed their rear gate to open outwards and obstruct the lanes.
The BSP Waterfront Food Court is a good location to stop for food and drinks, but pricing here is higher than average.

 At PKS are these four towers, each standing straight and tall, shooting upwards to the sky. It is a sculpture titled "Celebration Of The Blue Sky" by renown Japanese artist Nakayama Hitori and was created on 25th January 2008.
At the bottom of the towers are round colourful pieces...

... those colourful pieces together with this giant musical note forms a sculpture titled "The Rhythm Of Life" by local artist Heng Eow Lin. It was also created on 25th January 2008.

The exit point from PKS is an interesting crooked bridge that spans over Sungai Pinang, so called because it is indeed crooked!  To achieve the required gentler gradient, longer ramps running parallel to the river leading up to the bridge level was required on both sides. To complete the full span of the bridge from one bank to the other, six bends were required, i.e. thus forming two S-bends of the crooked bridge
The above photo shows the access from PKS.

This photo shows the access from the Pintasan Cecil side.The bridge have three lanes, two for cycling (one direction each) and one for pedestrians.
EXIT POINT (through Pintasan Cecil) TO: Weld Quay & George Town UNESCO Heritage Core Areas.

The lane after the bridge is another short stretch of shared lanes that will lead to Jalan CY Choy. It runs under a flyover of the LLCE and then cut through a light industrial and squatter housing area.

At Jalan CY Choy, a left turn leads to these green cycling lanes. These are not shared lanes and are solely dedicated for cycling with orange-red traffic poles demarcating them.
EXIT POINT TO: Beach Street Area.

Ahead is the pedestrian crossing that takes the lane over to the other side of the road and leads towards the city centre via Jalan Brick Kiln.
EXIT POINT TO: Jelutong & Sungai Pinang.

One stretch along here zig-zags to avoid the many drainage man-holes. Yes the lanes are interesting, there is a crooked bridge and here is a crooked lane too.

This stretch have many well patronised Nasi Kandar shops, so cycle here with care as there are many pedestrians walking around.
The dedicated cycling lane ends (or for those coming from the city, starts) at the front of the Gama Supermarket building.
EXIT POINT TO: George Town UNESCO Heritage Core Area, Macalister Road, Burma Road and onwards to Tanjung Tokong and the north of the island.

Shared cycling lanes continue pass that point with painted bicycle logos on the major roads, such as this one at Penang Road.

These dedicated cycling lanes (made possible by the state government in consultation with cycling groups such as the G Club) is a positive move to encourage cycling and reduce reliance on motor vehicles. Considering that several bridges are still being constructed, the lane are still being improved, especially at the missing link stretches. These lanes have concrete or tarred pavements that are well designed and constructed, and there are good safety features (such as railings/fencing, low concrete/steel dividers). They will provide a safer passage for cyclists to reach their respective destinations. In view of the rising cost of petrol and motor vehicle ownership, more will be taking on cycling as an alternative mode of transport; these lanes are just waiting for them.

There is still some room for improvements, and here are a few suggestions:

1. Where the lanes are away from street lighting, to provide lighting so that cyclists can safely cycle at night.
2. To draw out cycling commuters, extend the construction of dedicated lanes to make inroads to residential & work areas. This could be difficult considering the scarcity of land on the island. Looking at how the present lanes have evolved, there are smart and creative people in the government and the cycling community who can come up with solutions for this. Perhaps they are already working on it and perhaps some have been built; I will need to explore more next time.
3. Provide directional signages especially at exit points to guide users along. It will also be good to have more exit points for users to easily get to their respective homes.
4. Provide distance markers to the respective exit point and destinations.
4. Provide toilets, and sheds for resting and shelter from the rain and sun.
5. Penang is a food paradise, and there are many food courts around. It will be good to have easy access to them. OR construct new public food courts within the vicinity of the lanes, with stalls that sell reasonably priced food.
6. Provide more parks along the route. These need not necessarily be large parks and can be pocket parks, eg. at the Penang Bridge viewpoint area and the newly reclaimed lands.
7. Provide more bicycle parking racks.
8. Bearing in mind that these lanes are for commuting, consider imposing a speed limit to discourage speed cycling so as to ensure the safety of regular users.

In general, I found the lanes a pleasure to cycle on. They are well constructed with tarred or broom-sweep concrete pavements and are level (i.e. no bumpy ride) and have adequate safety railings. I look forward to the extension of these lanes in future phases.

UPDATE: 27th March 2016
Good news, construction of Phase 2 of these Penang East Coast Cycling Lanes is on going. At the rate works is proceeding, hopefully they will be completed soon:

Above is a map showing routing of part of Phase 2 of the East Coast Cycling Lanes, starting from the Bridge of Hope and ending somewhere near the 2nd Penang Bridge.

Construction of Phase 2 is almost reaching the 2nd Penang Bridge and from there hopefully to the Penang International Airport. Visitors to the island who come with their bicycles can then enjoy the lanes the moment they leave the airport. It's just too bad that cycling is not allowed on both the Penang Bridges.

 A cycling bridge being constructed above the cable crossing to connect Phase 2 to Phase 1.
UPDATE: 15th October 2018

More good news, the connection between Phase 1 to Phase 2, and also between Phase 1 and Bayan Baru have been completed.
This is via a three-storey spiral bridge called the Jambatan Harapan (Bridge of Hope). Launched in 20th May, 2018, this bridge allows cyclists and pedestrian to cross the Bayan Lepas Expressway which is 11 meters below and also the across Sungai Nibong Kecil.

A left fork spans across the Sungai Nibong Kecil and connects to Phase 2 of the East Coast Cycling Lanes. To use this, one don't even have to go up the spiral bridge, just before it take the left fork.

From the top of the spiral bridge a long ramp spans across Bayan Lepas Expressway and slopes down gradually to join the Sungai Nibong Highway and then onwards to Bayan Baru and Bukit Jambul.

The lanes don't just run parallel to the main road; they meander interestingly below the existing shady casuarina trees.

And at certain stretches, move away from the roads.

New trees being planted to give shade.....

And road markings being painted on.

Only problem is that barriers which provide safety also prevents crossing over to the other side. Perhaps when completed there will be access to the other side, OR better still there will be another lane at that side.

By the way, at Queensbay a beautiful garden park with sea-horse statues is coming up. It's easily accessible from the lanes.

Related Blogs :

You may also like :

Gallery - Street Art @ Hin Bus Art Depot
George Town, Penang : February 2014
An exhibition of interesting art by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic

You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Malaysia / Penang / Penang Island Cycling Lanes
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  1. Hi, great article about our cycling lanes, I am so proud to be Penangite. I normally utilize for running but can I please check from Queensbay mall until say Karpal Singh drive before heading onto the red bridge towards town, how many km is that? Thanks!

    1. Hi Chin Chin,
      Glad you like this blog and I hope it has been helpful to you.
      Near the top of this blog is a map showing the routing of these lanes, click on square box on the top right hand corner of the map and it will expand out. The expanded maps shows routes and destinations with distances indicated.

      The distance from Queensbay to Karpal Singh Drive is about 9.3km

      Hope this will help you.

      the AhPek Biker

  2. Very comprehensive post! Really helpful for me, a traveler who's thinking of cycling in Penang.

    1. Hi Valinka,
      Glad the blog was helpful.
      Penang is a great place to cycle.
      DO IT!

      the AhPek Biker